18th December 2007

Book Review: Mania.com

I have a Google Alerts notification setting, which alerts me any time someone in the blogosphere uses the phrase, “World’s Greatest Toys.”

Tonight, I got a lovely message alerting me to a review of Mego 8″ Super-Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys! posted on the ever-hip Mania.com.

What pleases me is that the book received an “A+” grade. What surprises me is that the reviewer, Tim Janson, clearly read the book cover-to-cover before offering his review. The book is dense, even for hard-core collectors, so I am really impressed.

You can read the Mania.com review here.

Here’s what Tim Janson and Mania.com had to say about the book:

Mania Rating

Grade: A+

Book Review: Mego 8″ Super-Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys!
By: Tim Janson, Columnist
Date: Tuesday, December 18, 2007

With only a week until Christmas I was literally like a kid in a toy store as I perused this book. TwoMorrows Publishing has long been one of my favorite publishers. Their books and magazines on comics are the best in the business. Yet here is a toy book…granted its about comic book heroes but I was surprised to see this offering coming from TM as opposed to someone else. Before Star Wars changed action figures like we know them today, the figures of the 60’s and 70’s were pretty similar in their design. They had joints, which moved on pins or with elastic of some kind, and they had costumes, which were made of cloth and removable. One of the few real challengers to Hasbro’s stranglehold on “boy toys” came from Mego. The company was founded in 1954 and while they put out a variety of toys it was their figural toys for which they are best remembered.

Mego produced all sorts of figures from movie characters such as Planet of the Apes, to TV personalities like Sonny & Cher and Charlie’s Angels. In an ironic bit of fate, Mego turned down the chance to license toys for Star Wars in 1976, which eventually went to Kenner. The rest is history as Kenner and now Hasbro have made a zillion dollars off the franchise while Mego went out of business in 1983. While Mego made figures in all sorts of sizes, this book focuses solely on the 8” super-hero line, a line which is filled with seemingly endless variations to the figures as well as the packaging. While cornering just this one line from Mego, TwoMorrows has delivered the most detailed and visually dynamic look yet at the World’s Greatest Super-Hero line. The book is packed with hundreds of color photos, which not only show the figures and packaging, but also zoom in to show intricate details such as the variations in stitching in the costumes, and changes in molding on boots and different paint schemes. It’s remarkable, really, the amount of detail that Holcomb has uncovered. This isn’t just a book filled with pictures but a true guide for hardcore Mego collectors. To prove this further, this isn’t a price guide, although the book does note some values on rare figures. This book concentrates on information. It features interviews with former Mego employees and vendors. Would you like to know how Mego figures were shipped from the factory, to the distribution centers and then on to the stores? Well it’s all here.

The meat of “Mego 8” Super-Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys” lies in its exhaustive coverage of the figures themselves…each year, each wave of figures, and each figure and it’s myriad variations. As show in the first Batman section, the figure’s cape was made with a variety of materials from nylon to vinyl, all with unique textures and color differences. One of the most helpful tools for collectors is a U.S. packaging checklist. For example, from 1972 until 1979, the Batman figure appeared in 18 different packaging styles from cards to boxes, often with only minor changes to the graphics or placement of the blister pack or box window. It’s almost like looking at one of those picture puzzles where you have to spot the differences in two nearly identical pictures.

Mego started out strictly on the DC Comics side of things with Superman, Batman & Robin, Aquaman. Batgirl, Catwoman but expanded to Marvel characters very soon with Captain America and Spider-Man. Mego was always very cost-conscious and re-used molds over and over and freely substituted a Shazam head to be used for a Peter Parker Montgomery Ward’s exclusive figure. This cannibalizing of the line is what allowed Mego to sell these figures so cheap…usually for around $3 or $4 bucks, and sometimes even less when a Kresge store tossed them into a discount bin for as little as .99 cents. Boy, wouldn’t you love to be able to go back in time and scoop some of these up for a buck! Eventually Marvel figures began to dominate by the mid to late 1970’s with figures added for Iron Man, Thor, Conan, the Falcon, Green Goblin, The Lizard, The Hulk, and the Fantastic Four. I have a Conan and its truly one of the ugliest action figures ever made. Poor Conan is grimacing like he’s constipated but I still love him.

This is a wonderful book for collectors. It pictures a multitude of variations and accessories that will help build your own collection. There are also dozens of pictures of companion pieces such as vehicles, playsets, and examples of carton styles. It’s a true treasure trove for the Mego fanatic.

How cool is that?!

Don’t have the book yet? Order to Collectors Edition today!

Benjamin

posted in Acknowledgements, Book Production, Book Status, Mego Corporation, Mego Memories, Press and Media, Random Musings, World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

10th December 2007

Javier Hernandez: El Muerto (AKA The Dead One)

Appearing on Javier Hernandez’ “Planet Comic Book Radio” radio show was the most fun I’ve had in quite some time. If you couldn’t check it out live, you can now Podcast the show in two parts:

Listen to/Download: Part One

Listen to/Download: Part Two

But the real fun — for me — happened after the microphones were silenced. Javier took me to his favorite local Mexican dive. This was positively the best Mexican food I have devoured during my short tenure in Mexophilic southern California. Since moving here in 2001, I’ve had my fair share of excellent Mexican fare… but this place was the bomb. Stand-up and outdoor seating only, it was the perfect setting for Javier and me to unwind after the show.

Javier and I just let loose. On the food and the conversation. No holds barred, we enjoyed the opportunity to shoot the shit without fear of retribution or consequence. All the filthy, fascinating dirt surrounding our projects? The ones we really shouldn’t discuss? Yeah, we talked about it all.

What really happened during the making of Javier’s comic-book movie, El Muerto? What really went down with Benjamin’s first publishing offer? What’re those taboo stories about Mego? Wait: what did Wal-Mart do?!

Hanging out with Javier was a ‘highlight’ experience in a period of particularly special moments and experiences for me. Now that the book is out, I can finally enjoy the book for what it is. I no longer look at it as a task or responsibility or shamefully unfinished project. It’s done and I can finally enjoy the fruits of labor, the opportunity to meet and hang out with accomplished and incredible people like Javier Hernandez.

What a thrill! Here’s my proof it actually happened:

Javier Hernandez

Above: Benjamin (left) and El Muerto creator Javier Hernandez (right), with a signed print of the original San Diego Comic Con El Muerto promotional poster.

Benjamin

posted in Acknowledgements, Book Production, Book Status, Mego Memories, Press and Media, Random Musings, World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

10th December 2007

World’s Greatest Toys! in USA Today

Pop Candy

Man, I really do love USA Today’s Pop Candy blog, maintained by Whitney Matheson. Not only is Whitney downright adorable (yet woefully married), she captains one of the hippest ships in the blogosphere.

As a big fan of Pop Candy, today was a good day for me. Whitney granted Mego 8″ Super-Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys! a nice blurb (text below the image):

Pop Candy

Here’s what Whitney wrote in her blog:

Mego 8″ Super-Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys by Benjamin Holcomb (TwoMorrows, $49.95). Either you’re familiar with Mego or you aren’t, and folks who used to collect these colorful, superheroic action figures in the ’70s will appreciate this large, full-color, unbelievably complete guide. (One of my co-workers lit up when he saw this on my desk, then proceeded to flip through it and tell me about each of the figures he used to own.) Holcomb goes through everything from the history of Mego to the construction of each toy, making the book valuable to both serious collectors and pop-culture enthusiasts.

Now how cool is that?! It seems every office has at least one Mego-head.

And that’s a good thing.

Benjamin

posted in Acknowledgements, Book Production, Book Status, Press and Media, Random Musings, World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

5th December 2007

Podcast: Mego Talk on Planet Comic Book Radio

Last night (Wednesday, December 4, 2007), I was a guest on Javier Hernandez’ “Planet Comic Book Radio” internet radio show, broadcast by PerspectiveRadio.com.

The show, divided into two parts, is now available for streaming and podcast download.

Click here to stream Part 1

This segment includes host Javier Hernandez and author Benjamin Holcomb discussing:

  • The book’s release and distribution
  • “Comic Book Guy”
  • Inspirations for writing the book
  • Older brothers: Pink Floyd and Jack Kirby
  • Mego producing both Marvel and DC toys
  • Modern Toys: Spawn and DC Direct
  • Favorite Christmas memory and the book cover: Javier’s Jokermobile
  • Publisher TwoMorrows and Michael Eury’s “Captain Action” book
  • Character revolutions and telling a visual story: “A Collection-in-a-Book”
  • Mego Teen Titans and Isis
  • Next book and Foreign Mego
  • Rejections and finding TwoMorrows
  • MegoMuseum.com
  • Getting TwoMorrows’ attention
  • Annual Mego convention in West Virgina called “MegoMeet”

Click here to stream Part 2

This segment includes host Javier Hernandez and author Benjamin Holcomb discussing:

  • Definitive guide…?
  • “Mego Myths” and Misinformation: Finding a voice and researching the book
  • Hong Kong and Mego’s Captain America figure
  • Montgomery Ward: A wall of Megos and Mego’s Batgirl
  • Javier’s “Fantastic Three”
  • Insider look: Interviewing ex-Mego employees
  • Quality of the toys and materials
  • Mego materials and referring to the action figures as “dolls”
  • Javier’s 3rd Wave figures
  • Mego Spider-Man and Hulk: TV, popularity and Parkdale Novelties
  • Benjamin’s Web presence: WorldsGreatestToys.com and the Book Blog
  • Mego “Godfather” John Bonavita
  • The original cover design
  • The Collectors Edition, available exclusively from TwoMorrows.com
  • Availability and purchasing information
  • Rom: Space Knight and artist Bill Mantlo

I had a blast, and I hope you enjoy listening to a couple of geeks talk about Mego.

Benjamin

posted in Book Production, Book Status, Mego Corporation, Mego Memories, Press and Media, Random Musings, World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

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